Michel Plantier – The Anti-semites and Capitalism (May 1907)

[Originally published in 1907, in the May edition of Marc Sangnier’s Le Sillon – Revue d’action démocratique by Michel Plantier.)

Certain reactionary and Catholic milieus are willingly resentful of the critiques which we formulate against the current capitalist order and do not hesitate to accuse us of encouraging class struggle.

It may be interesting to recall here, in comparison with the habitual tone of our grievances against capitalism, what virulent attacks against bourgeois society, management, finance, have been leveled before us by some writers who the conservative Catholics have meanwhile not ceased to consider as their favorite prophets.

Under the cover of antisemitism, indeed, Edouard Drumont and his friends have fixated their harshest blows on our capitalist regime, bitterly denouncing the flaws of the ruling classes, launched the most demagogic appeals to revolt and to social revolution, without raising the indignation of the bourgeois nor of certain theologians, wild guardians of a certain orthodoxy and above all of “reactionary orthodoxy”.

And we would not be lacking pages to cite. All throughout his Fin d’un monde, for example, in which Drumont is pleased, with the excitement, the relief, the ferocity that he is known for, to lay bare and to whip the vices of our industrial paganism.

The bourgeoisie… does not believe itself bound by any moral obligation in relation to those who it uses as forces, [imagining] work without rest, without respite, work that no longer [leaves] to the human being a minute for themselves to recover, to pray, and they call it Progress, the triumph of the nineteenth century, the glory of the new era. Work: Christian society made it a way to obtain heaven without too much suffering on earth, bourgeois society made it a way of immediately entering into hell.

Every factory-owner wanted to bid on the competitor and possess more nègres blancs than him. The chief of state comes once in a while to visit the plantations and [is] shown the specimen.

— How many do you have like this? — Three thousand Sire… — And you hold them all year long? — All year, your Majesty. […]

(1)

And it is the existence of two classes foreign to one another, it is human work which turns profits for anonymous speculators, it is the whole economy of industrial capitalism which he denounces in this striking summary:

A grand establishment put in action could change owners two or three times, in a single stock exchange, without the workers even knowing that the owners whom they worked for at noon were not the same as those who they worked for at 4 o’clock. One can gamble, lose or win thousands of workers in an instant, like a Russian lord or a slave owner playing thousands of blacks or serfs at the roll of a dice[.]

(2)

And, in front of this sharp situation, this profound crisis, he displays the lamentable timidity of Catholics, the ridiculous cataplasms they propose. Mercilessly, he mocks the intellectual and social cowardice of all of these makers [faiseurs] of social peace.

In short, Catholic socialism, in France at least, is reduced to an undeniable benevolence for the worker, to a very real desire to relieve their suffering by charity, but on the condition that nothing changes in the present social order. Catholics seem to follow an imperious need to mount guard around a society which is the negation of all their principles; they exercise with conviction, to the profit of the Freemason who scorns them, a sort of superior police force destined to keep the proletarians tranquil by talking to them of heaven[.]

(3)

To those Catholics softened and enslaved by the surrounding paganism, [Drumont] recalls the vigorous invectives of the Fathers of the Church, their critiques of property.

For him, what he demands is a “revision of the Revolution.”

The liquidation which had taken place on 1789 was made at the expense of decent people and to the profit of the scoundrels, the parasites and the foreign exploiters; let us make the liquidation of 1889 [the year Drumont’s La fin d’un monde was published] at the expense of the scoundrels and to the profit of decent people, of France and of workers.

(4)

. . .

And the conservatives applauded because it is about attacking the Jews.

And for this furious assault, everything is permitted, even inciting popular passions, glorifying hatred.

The day after the death of Alphonse Rothschild, Léon Daudet ended an article on “The death of the King of the Republic” with this vengeful perspective:

This financier had amassed millions… It only takes a minute of righteous anger for the dispossessed people to recover and scatter them.

(5)

Quite recently, Drumont wrote this surprising defense of the Catholic Church:

This was the great force of the Church in the past, to always live close to the Christian people, listening to the pulsations of their heart, identifying with everyone’s sentiments, when these sentiments were legitimate, such as the hatred of the French against the Rothschild and the money-handlers, exploiters of all labor.

(6)

Such were the remarks of these Fathers of the Church… 

As for us, we wish to love Justice and Truth enough so as to seek them alone, and not to reduce our Christian indignation to being an instrument in the service of certain hatreds or interests, useful methods for smearing a category of adversaries.

Let us worry about the interests of a few, confront close friends, denounce abuse wherever it is found, and refuse to only see in contemporary capitalism a Jewish question, whereas among those who defend and support capitalism we — alas! — see many Christians!

We will not deliver ourselves, by our own account, to the work of civil war which people are not afraid to pursue under the cover of Catholicism itself; but without hate and violence we will claim our right to raise the demand of our conscience everywhere we see scandals or crimes contrary to our Christian ideal or democratic progress. 

MICHEL PLANTIER.

Notes
(1) ÉDOUARD DRUMONT. La fin d’un monde, Paris, Savine, edit., 1889, p. 32.
(2) ÉDOUARD DRUMONT. La fin d’un monde, Paris, Savine, edit., 1889, p. 164.
(3) Id., p. 220.
(4) Id., p. 230.
(5) La Libre Parole du 28 mai 1905
(6) La Libre Parole du 28 mai 1907